Timeline: How Former Transportation Director Grace Crunican Became Seattle's Most Reviled Department Head

better grace crunican.jpg
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SDOT Director Grace Crunican went from mostly anonymous to political poison in just over a year.
Yesterday, to the surprise of no one, Seattle Transportation Director Grace Crunican sent out a press release announcing her resignation. Crunican, along with now-departing Mayor Greg Nickels, was the face of last year's Snowpocalypse, the once-in-a-decade snowstorm that paralyzed the city for a week.

A little more than a year ago, most Seattleites wouldn't have recognized her name, let alone been able to pick her out of a line-up. So how did Crunican go from anonymous government worker to the most reviled department head in the city? Let's consult the timeline!

December 20, 2008: Washington weather guru Cliff Mass says the coming snowstorm will be Seattle's greatest since 1996. He's proven correct.

December 23, 2008: Crunican defends SDOT's controversial use of sand over ice, even as sleds on Denny Way outnumber cars by a three-to-one margin.

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Flickr
A Snowpocalypse-era photo appropriately titled "The Night Seattle Gave Up."

December 24, 2008: Nickels gives the city a "B" grade for its response to the storm.

February 20: In a meeting before the city council, Crunican says of her department's response to the snowstorm: "We blew it."

May 8: Transportation manager Paul Jackson Jr. becomes Exhibit B for Crunican's flawed tenure. Jackson was promoted despite a year-long inquiry revealing him to be "unsafe, dictatorial, vindictive" and "unwilling to listen."

May 9: Councilman Nick Licata says Crunican must explain why she promoted Jackson. Taxpayers are owed that, he says.

May 14: At a hearing where its revealed that SDOT's dysfunction will cost the city $800,000 in consultant fees, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen accuses Crunican of having an "ineffective or poor management style."

June 19: An investigation clears Nickels of requesting special treatment for plowing during the December snowstorm. But questions linger after Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis admits to calling Crunican about clearing his Admiral Way neighborhood.

June 20: The results of a $500,000 internal investigation are made public, revealing that SDOT employs a lot of really pissed off people. While the initial costs for the inquiry were expected to be no greater than $75,000, the budget ballooned when the law firm hired to root out issues of favoritism and discrimination found that roughly one-third of all employees wanted to vent their frustrations about rude and abusive management.

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Crunican wasn't likely to survive the triple-whammy of the snowstorm, Jackson's promotion or the bungled road fixes.
July 8: Crunican reverses course and calls Jackson's promotion an error.

July 12: Tipped off by some disgruntled SDOT workers, a Seattle Times investigation reveals a handful of botched projects, including some that are so poorly mismanaged they have to be redone almost before the concrete sets.

July 15: In a press release, mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan calls for Crunican's head. James Donaldson piles on, asking "How much worse can it get in this city before people take up pitchforks and drive the monster from the castle?"

July 17: Mike McGinn takes a slightly softer stance, saying that if he takes office he doesn't "see keeping Grace Crunican."

December 11: Mayor-elect McGinn announces his transition team. Crunican's name is not mentioned.

December 28: Crunican resigns and announces she's going into business for herself by setting up a consulting shop.

 
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